I have worked with so many parents who talk about the frustration and sadness they feel about how rude, disrespectful and entitled their children can be at times and with the amount of arguing that goes on in their homes. I think what can be so difficult is that as adults, many of us could never imagine speaking to our parents or doing the things that we see some children doing today. Let’s face it, we are living in a different time with kids being exposed to things that make them want to grow up faster, with kids being exposed to other kids doing bad things more often and with increased challenges in supervising children (more parents working, social media, more controversial content on TV, etc). These are certainly not excuses for bad behavior, however, it helps to remember that kids today are living in a different world and navigating through different challenges.
What these behaviors can do for many families is create unbelievable conflicts where parents are accused of being old-fashioned, not understanding, unfair, ridiculous…and worse. This leaves children extremely frustrated with their parents and leaves parents extremely frustrated, hurt and disappointed with their children. The dynamic that then plays out is one where children and their parents are on opposite sides of the battle field, both fighting for the “win” they so desperately want.
The problem is, it should not be about a win/lose situation. It should be about what is best for the family and what is in the best interest of the children. When parents are able to shift their mindset to this, situations can be easier to manage and responses can be more thoughtful and proactive rather than only reactive. When parents remain calm, they are more in control and children understand this.
Let’s face it though, it is not easy to stay calm when your child is challenging you, questioning you, nagging you and telling you how awful you are, right? What is important though, is that you DO stay calm during these times. When anyone yells and repeats themselves over and over, it is generally coming from a place where they feel out of control (kids do the same – the less they feel heard, the louder they yell). When parents yell and make harsh decisions in the moment based on strong emotions, children sense this and they know that they are in the driver’s seat. If you are a parent who has done this, you are far from alone – most, if not all parents, do this because it is a natural reaction to a strong emotional state. However, it typically results in either an unrealistic, excessive punishment, in saying things that shouldn’t be said or in having a completely ineffective conversation.
If you are a parent who wants to reduce your arguing with your teenager, try implementing the tips below:
- Control your behavior, don’t try to control theirs: you have 100% control over your reactions and if you remain respectful and calm, it will make a difference. When we change our behaviors, the behaviors of those around us usually change. Don’t spend all your energy trying to make your teen stop yelling or swearing…just control what you do.
- Give your teen a quota: expect that your teen will make some mistakes and will become emotional and remember that they have many lessons to learn during this time in their lives. If you give yourself a quota (for example…your teenager will yell about a rule at least once per week), then you are going to be better prepared for this when it occurs and will not respond in a reactive way. Over time, you will be able to help them better manage their emotions if your emotions remain under control.
- Don’t feel the need to rescue them all the time: your teen will make mistakes and may have to tolerate some uncomfortable consequences for these mistakes. This is healthy and will help them learn to be good decision makers. Don’t feel like you need to control or prevent them from making all bad decisions. They will end up resenting you for trying to “control them” and will never fully understand the consequences of bad decision-making.
- When they are talking…listen: when your teen is talking (even if you feel that the arguments they are making are not legitimate), listen to them. Let them know that you are hearing them so that they don’t have to keep raising their voice.
- Walk away: don’t continue to engage in an unproductive conversation that keeps going back and forth. If you are on one side of a tennis court and walk away, the other person can no longer hit the ball back and forth – the same is true with interpersonal interactions. If you disengage from the fight, there is no longer a fight to be had. Simply say something like, “I don’t think this conversation is helpful to either one of us so I am going to leave until we are both calm enough to talk about this in a better way”. Then leave (walk off the court)…if they want to get in the last word or comment as a means of re-engaging you…resist and urge to respond and maintain your control.
This is not always an easy thing to do but when done consistently it really makes a difference. For some great tips on additional techniques that will improve your communication, relationship and overall parenting confidence with your teen – go to www.HowToParentATeen.com and gain instant access to the free audio program titled 3 Power Strategies for Parents of Teenagers.